Taking Positive Risks

Reflections from the Kent Place School Community

We often think of risks as being dangerous, but at Kent Place School we emphasize the value of “positive risks” to help us grow individually and collectively. A positive risk is when there is a potential positive impact for yourself and/or others.

Here are some of our community members’ thoughts on “taking positive risks.” We would love for you to share your stories and thoughts about “positive risks” with us! Please leave us a comment or send us an email: ethics@kentplace.org

“I value our community practice of encouraging positive risks because I believe it contributes to diversity of thought. When an idea or approach is new, its outcome is uncertain, and having a community where it’s safe to try new things in how we form relationships and solve problems is more important to me than the potential harms caused when an idea or approach fails. The inclination to take positive risks must go with a willingness to take responsibility when one’s words and actions fail to move conversations, projects, or learning further, and I find risks are most effectively employed when accompanied by reflection once the outcomes play out. Some of the most beautiful positive risks I have witnessed from Kent Place students are those that risk vulnerability and rejection in order to share stories and perspectives. Every day, I see students in my English classes taking a risk not based on a score or a grade, but what’s in the interest of their creative or intellectual goals.”

– Ms. Cohen, US English Teacher

“To me taking positive risks means doing something such as becoming a leader, taking a position, joining a club, or going to a conference, despite having doubts. It’s putting yourself out there to try and learn new things.”

– Eliza L, 11th grade student

“I am a natural born risk-taker, even though I’m an introvert.  I know that sounds like a contradiction, but I always stretch myself quietly so no one notices.  I see this in many other teachers in our community.  They don’t make a loud fuss, they just approach teaching with an open mindset and encourage their students to do the same.  Every day.  Quietly.  Remote Learning – while challenging – has provided the impetus for positive risk taking – stepping out of your comfort zone (everyone together) and creating something new.” 

– Ms. Emery, PS ELA Program Coordinator

“Positive risks are important because they allow each of us the chance to grow. My example of a positive risk I took this year was when I co-sponsored the New Jersey Students of Color Conference at Newark Academy. Generally when I work with students to co-organize an event, I allow them the opportunity to come up with their own speaker ideas. After they shared their speaker ideas. I decided to take the risk of sharing my speaker suggestion. Most of the students were not familiar with my speaker suggestion, but I shared with them my personal experience of having this speaker present at my last school. Despite not being able to see a video of him speaking to students at my last school, the students agreed to invite him to their conference. The students were very glad that I made a speaker recommendation and I appreciated their willingness to accept my  word-of-mouth suggestion.”

– Mrs. Justice, Director of Diversity and Inclusion

“As someone who works with student leaders, I have the privilege of seeing, up close, students taking positive risks. The girls who run for committee vice-president and president positions must make either a two- or three-minute speech in front of Upper School students and faculty. To help the candidates feel as confident and comfortable as possible, I require them to attend one of my public speaking workshops, and it’s here that I see students taking a huge positive risk. Some of them are fairly comfortable with public speaking, but many of the candidates say that making the speech is more intimidating than the responsibilities of the position for which they’re running. And then, of course, they risk losing their bid for the position. They take this very positive risk mostly because they’re passionate about a particular committee and want to contribute their talents, but I also believe they do so because they know that, win or lose, there is something to be gained from the experience. And there is: the pride in having tried, the satisfaction of saying those closing words in a well-written speech, and the assurance that the KPS community was cheering them on.”

– Ms. Gordon, Dean of Students and US English Teacher

“You can never go wrong when you take a positive risk to stand up for what’s important to you. It will still require courage, care, and sometimes even a little cleverness and compassion, but at the end of the day, you can be proud that your values have served as your lodestar while you learn and grow.”

– Ms. Hennessy, English Department Chair and Co-Director of the Girls’ Leadership Institute